Hand clinic offers another treatment for arthritis sufferers

The Ely Hand Clinic, run by Addenbrooke’s Hospital, is offering an additional type of treatment for patients with arthritic pain in their thumbs.

Mr Alex Reid

And among the first the benefit was a Royston father-of-two who says it has made such a difference, he can’t wait to have surgery on his other hand.

The procedure involves replacing the joint at the base of thumb with a precision-made ball and socket implant made of stainless steel and polyethylene, or titanium for nickel allergic patients.

Although the implant is not suitable for everyone, research shows it can speed up recovery and improve the mechanical function of the arthritic thumb.

The procedures is being carried out by consultant plastic and hand surgeons, Mr Alex Reid and Miss Tereze Laing on patients referred to the clinic, which is next to the minor injuries unit at the Princess of Wales Hospital.

The standard treatment for the condition in the UK is a trapeziectomy, which involves removal of bone at the base of the thumb. Other treatment options can be as straight-forward as anti-inflammatory drugs to steroid injections.

Mr Reid, who heads the clinic, said: “The important thing is to have at our disposal a comprehensive range of treatments so we can apply the most appropriate one to each patient. The implant further improves the range of options available.

“Many clinicians have concerns over the limitations of trapeziectomy, in particular the recovery time, the variable gains in pinch strength, and the difficulties in revising the procedure in the event of a poor outcome.

“However not all patients are suitable for the prosthesis since ideally the next joint along should not be arthritic and the trapezium bone must be big enough for the replacement to sit in.”

One patient who was suitable is 57-year-old father of two Allen Richer, from Royston, who was treated as a day patient under general anaesthetic.

Mr Richer, who lives with wife Jeanette, said: “I could not believe how quickly it all healed up, and how soon I became pain-free. My wife is delighted too – it saves her continually having to open packets, packages and bottles for me!

“I suffer from similar problems in my other thumb and although I know there is going to be a bit of a wait, I am really looking forward to getting it sorted out and being pain free in both hands.”

Any GP wishing to refer a patient to the clinic should continue to do it in the usual way through the Department of Plastic Surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, but mark for the attention of Mr Reid or Miss Laing.

Image: Mr Alex Reid

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